A number of medical doctors who expected a warm welcome in the U.S. after defecting from Cuba are now having difficulties getting their immigration visas from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The medical doctors were encouraged to defect to the United States because of a program created by President George W. Bush in 2006. The program was designed to weaken Cuba’s own “Doctor Diplomacy” program, under which Cuban doctors work in foreign countries as part of Cuba’s diplomacy effort. Many of the Cuban doctors are deployed in Venezuela, where several doctors have defected and later sought to immigrate to the U.S. Several of the defected Cuban doctors have experienced that their green card applications have been delayed or even denied after they admitted to having had ties to the Cuban Communist Party.
One doctor that defected while he was in Venezuela was subsequently denied a green card in the U.S. because he had joined the Union of Young Communists when he was 14 years old. In the forms that applicants for green cards or U.S. citizenship have to fill out, there are questions about the applicant’s ties to communist parties, and providing a false answer to the questions on the forms could cause applicants to be prosecuted or even stripped of their new U.S. citizenship. Federal U.S. law makes anyone who has been a member of the communist party in the last five years ineligible for permanent residency, while the rule is ten years for U.S. citizenship applicants. On the other hand, the organizations that are helping the defected Cuban medical doctors resettle in the U.S. say that the doctors have often not joined the Communist Party out of belief, but rather out of necessity, in order to be allowed to practice their occupation or even just to be able to provide enough sustenance for their families. The USCIS says that regardless of any programs, they process all applications for permanent resident status, or citizenship individually.